How to Catch Stone Crabs in Florida (Tips and Tactics)

Photo of author
Last Updated:

Stone crabs are fun to catch and taste great! If you’re planning to catch some, here’s our complete guide on how to catch stone crabs.

stone crab on the sand
A juvenile stone crab on the sand. Source: Andrea Westmoreland

In this article, we’re going to answer common questions like:

  • Is the stone crab the best type of crab to eat?
  • What does it feed on?
  • How do you catch stone crabs?

Now let’s dive in!


The Florida stone crab can be found in the western North Atlantic and this includes the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba, the Bahamas and the east coast of the US. It can also be found in the salt marshes of Georgia and South Carolina.

The crab is mainly caught for food because of its excellent taste but you may confuse a genuine stone crab with a hybrid if you don’t know what to look for.

A stone crab tucked away and hidden from predators. Source: Phil’s 1stPix

The carapace of the stone crab is about 6 inches wide and it is brownish-red in color with gray spots and a tan underside. Females are larger than the males but the males have larger chelae in comparison.

The crab sheds its limbs to escape predators or tight spaces but they always grow back. What is interesting is that each time it molts, it grows a new larger claw.

Stone crabs that molt are called soft shell crabs till their shell grows back.

Stone Crab Facts

Scientific NameMenippe mercenaria
Common Name(s)Stone crab
Identifying CharacteristicsThe carapace of the stone crab is about 6 inches wide and it is brownish-red in color with gray spots and a tan underside. Females are larger than the males but the males have larger chelae in comparison
Depth Range1 to 5 feet
HabitatThe stone crab can be found in the western North Atlantic and this includes the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba, the Bahamas and the east coast of the US. It can also be found in the salt marshes of Georgia and South Carolina.
LimitsCheck your local regulations
Largest RecordedThe caught crab’s claw measured 148.9 mm

Stone Crabs Habitat

Look for stone crabs near dock pilings, seawalls, and bridges in 6 inches to 3 feet deep water-filled holes. These usually have shells around the opening which the crab uses to dig deeper. They can also be found in knee-deep seagrass beds and reefs.

How to Catch Stone Crabs 

YouTube video

You can catch stone crabs with a crab trap. Once you get one, fill the bait box with dead cut up fish (such as mullet, ladyfish etc) so that you can create some chum in the water.

Look for the stone crab in a grassy area that has some patches of sand around it and has water running through it.

Drop the trap in the area with the bait box open and make sure that the opening is in the same direction that the current is flowing. Leave the trap for at least 24 hours and then check if any crab were caught in it.

As per Florida law, you can only harvest stone crabs that have claws that are about 2 7/8 inches long-only and only claws may be harvested. Harvesting from egg-bearing crabs is prohibited.

Stone Crab Trapping Tactics

  • Set 5 traps in a line at different locations and check them every 2 to 5 days for stone crabs.
  • If you don’t want to use stone crab traps, lure the stone crab out of its hidey-hole by tempting it with a fish such as the whole ballyhoo.

Tips for Catching Stone Crabs 

  1. If a stone crab has faint fingerprint-like markings on the propodus (the last segment of the pincer) you have a crab that has never been harvested before in your hands.
  2. Grab a stone crab over the top of the claws by the body and keep them pointed down and away

Stone Crab Season

Get your stone crabs schedule dialed in well in advance!

Stone Crab Season Florida

Stone crab season opens in Florida on October 15th and goes all the way till May 15th. That is the only time when you can harvest these stone crabs legally in the state. The spawning season lasts all spring and summer when the females lay millions of eggs.

How to Clean Stone Crabs

  • Lay the crab on a cutting board with its belly side up and facing towards you.
  • Place the tip of a sharp knife under the triangular piece of shell at the rear end of the crab and pry it open.
  • Lift the upper shell of the crab completely off and discard the outer shell.
  • Remove the flesh from the body and place it in a bowl.
  • Remove the gills under the abdomen by grabbing and pulling them out with your hands.
  • Hold the crab under running water to rinse out the viscera and guts.
  • Twist off the legs from the body and crack them gently open with a hammer to remove the meat.

How to Cook Stone Crab Claws

Keep your stone crab recipe simple for best tasting results! Source: Wally Gobetz

Stone Crab Claw Recipe

  • Put uncracked stone crab claws in a steamer basket and set over a pot of boiling water over high heat.
  • Cover the stone crab claws and steam for about 5 minutes.
  • Melt butter in a pan but not enough to turn it brown. Then pour it in a serving bowl.
  • Remove the claws from the steamer, crack the shells and serve with the melted butter and some lemon wedges.
  • If you’re adventurous, next time try fried crab claw…it’s also DELICIOUS!

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between male and female stone crabs?

Females have a wide and long abdomen while male stone crabs have a narrower abdomen.

How long does it take for a stone crab to grow back a claw?

Once it loses a claw, the stone crab has to undergo several molt cycles to fully regenerate the lost appendage. This can take a year.

How long do stone crabs live?

There is no precise method that can determine the age of a stone crab. Age is calculated according to molt frequency which suggests that males can live for 7 to 8 years while females can live up to 8 to 9 years.

Insider Advice

The stone crab may not be the biggest crab ever out there but its succulent meat more than makes up for its size. You can also wait for it to molt and try the soft shell variety if you want.

Do you have experience catching these crabs? Don’t be shy about sharing your experiences in the comments below and do share this guide if you liked it.

Remember, there’s always time for crab!

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
× How can we improve it?
× Thanks for your feedback!

We're always looking to improve our articles to help you become an even better fisherman.

While you're here, why not follow us on Facebook and YouTube? Facebook YouTube

rainbow trout size

How Big Do Rainbow Trout Get?

Are you curious how big do rainbow trout get? Rainbow trout are one of the most popular game fish in the entire world. Trout guide and fly fishing instructor Daniel O’Neill, discusses how big rainbow trout get and how to catch these larger fish.  As a child, one of my earliest fishing memories involved catching
bass jumping out of water

Bass Jumping Out Of Water: What Does it Mean?

Have you ever wondered why bass sometimes jump out of the water? The first time I saw it, I was shocked and made it a point to research why it happened when I got home. In this article, we’ll explore why they jump out of the water and how this knowledge can transform your fishing
how long can you keep fish on ice

How Long Can You Keep Fish on Ice

Are you wondering if the fish you left in your cooler overnight is still safe to eat? I used to think fresh fish was always best, but after talking with chefs, fishmongers, and die-hard fishermen, I changed my perspective on fish storage. This guide examines how long you can store fish before it goes bad.
do bass sleep

Do Bass Sleep? Unraveling the Mystery of Bass Resting Behavior

Curious minds wonder about the secrets hidden beneath the water’s surface. This article will dive deep into the world of bass and uncover the truth about their resting behavior. Along the way, we’ll explore the factors that influence how these popular fish recharge their energy. Whether you’re an angler looking to refine your fishing strategies
northern pike teeth

Northern Pike Teeth: Everything You Need to Know

Northern pikes are natural predators whose teeth are razor-sharp, designed to slice and dice their prey. The teeth multiply as the pike grows. How many teeth a pike has depends on the age and size, but generally, a fully grown pike can have up to 700 teeth. Additionally, the length of their teeth depends on
muskie teeth

Muskie Teeth: All You Need to Know

Muskies are freshwater predators with hundreds of razor-sharp teeth to help them tear their prey. They have dozens of bigger canines and other small teeth arranged in rows. For example, grown-up muskies can have about 500 to 700 teeth in their mouth, and their biggest canine can range up to one inch in length. Muskie’s